(tɛtʃ; c. 1680 – November 22
), better known as Blackbeard
, was a notorious English pirate
in the Caribbean Sea
and western Atlantic
during the early 18th century, a period referred to as the Golden Age of Piracy
. His best known vessel was the Queen Anne's Revenge
, which is believed to have run aground near Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina
Blackbeard often fought, or simply showed himself, wearing a big feathered tricorn, and having multiple swords, knives, and pistols at his disposal. It was reported in A General Historie of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates that he had hemp and lit matches woven into his enormous black beard during battle to intimidate his enemies. Blackbeard is often regarded as the archetypal image of the seafaring pirate.
Nothing is known about Blackbeard's early life. The best sources have Blackbeard's real name as Edward Teach
. An alternative spelling is Edward Thatch
; another name is Edward Drummond
. Most think Blackbeard was born in Bristol
, but some speculate London
, Accomack County, Virginia
Teach went to sea at an early age. He served on a British ship in the War of the Spanish Succession
which also included Queen Anne's war, privateering
in the Spanish West Indies
and along the Spanish Main
. After Britain withdrew from the war in 1713, Teach, like many other privateers, turned to piracy. He got his first legs from the pirate Benjamin Hornigold
, whose base was in Jamaica. When Hornigold decided to retire from piracy and took the Crown's offer of a pardon, Blackbeard refused the pardon, taking a ship Hornigold captured that same year, a French slave-ship named Le Concorde
, (later research revealed that the ship was actually built in Britain) renaming it Queen Anne's Revenge
. Some think that the name was a tribute to the war where he got his first taste of piracy, Queen Anne's War
. Queen Anne's Revenge
was armed with 40 guns.
Blackbeard's Jolly Roger
had an image of the devil holding an hourglass (signifying time running out), and a spear pointing at a bleeding heart.
Blackbeard the Pirate
According to Charles Johnson, Blackbeard fought a running duel with the British thirty-gun man-of-war HMS Scarborough, which added to his notoriety. However, historian David Cordingly has noted that the Scarborough's log has no mention of any such battle.
Blackbeard would plunder merchant ships, forcing them to allow his crew to board their ship. The pirates would seize all of the valuables, food, liquor, and weapons. Despite his ferocious reputation, there are no verified accounts of him actually killing anyone. He deliberately cultivated his barbaric reputation, and so could prevail by terror alone.
However, colorful legends and vivid contemporary newspaper portrayals had him committing acts of cruelty and terror. One tale claims he shot his own first mate, saying "if he didn’t shoot one or two crewmen now and then, they’d forget who he was." Another legend is that having had too much to drink, he said to his crew, "Come, let us make a hell of our own, and try how long we can bear it." Going into the ship's hold, they closed the hatches, filled several pots with brimstone and set it on fire. Soon the men were coughing and gasping for air from the sulphurous fumes. All except Blackbeard scrambled out for fresh air. When Blackbeard emerged, he snarled, "Damn ye, ye yellow-bellied sapsuckers! I'm a better man than all ye milksops put together! According to Captain Charles Johnson's A General History of the Robberies & Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates:
Before he sailed upon his adventures, he married a young creature of about sixteen years of age . . . and this I have been informed, made Teach's fourteenth wife . . . with whom after he had lain all night, it was his custom to invite five or six of his brutal companions to come ashore, and he would force her to prostitute herself to them all, one after another, before his face.
Teach had headquarters in both the Bahamas and the Carolinas as well as Sonoma. He lived on the island of Nassau where he was named the magistrate of the "Privateers Republic". Legends circulate that Governor Charles Eden of North Carolina received booty from Teach in return for unofficial protection. (Eden would eventually offer Teach an official pardon.) Teach left Nassau to avoid meeting with Royal Governor Woodes Rogers, unlike the majority of the pirate inhabitants who welcomed the governor and accepted the royal pardons he brought.
Blockade of Charleston
Blackbeard's chief claim to fame is his blockade of Charleston
, South Carolina
. In approximately late May 1718, Blackbeard entered the mouth of Charleston harbour with the Queen Anne's Revenge
and three lighter vessels. He plundered five merchant freighters attempting to enter or leave the port. No other vessels could transit the harbour for fear of encountering the pirate squadron.
Aboard one of the ships that Blackbeard captured in the harbor mouth was a group of prominent Charleston citizens, including Samuel Wragg. Blackbeard held these hostages for ransom, making an unusual demand: a chest of medicines. He sent a deputation ashore to negotiate this ransom. Due partly to his envoys' preference for carousing rather than bargaining, the ransom took some days to be delivered, and Blackbeard evidently came close to murdering his prisoners. Eventually, the medicines were turned over, and Blackbeard released the hostages, without their clothing, but otherwise unharmed. Blackbeard's whole squadron then escaped northward.
Shortly afterward, Blackbeard ran two of his vessels aground at Topsail Inlet (now Beaufort Inlet), including the Queen Anne's Revenge, and the ship Adventure when trying to 'save' the grounded ship. He has been accused by many, including his own crew, of doing this deliberately in order to downsize his crew and increase his own share of the treasure. Deliberate or not, he stripped three of the ships of all treasure, beached or marooned most of his crew, and went to Bath, North Carolina, where he finally accepted a pardon under the royal Act of Grace. He then went off to Ocracoke Inlet in the last of his four vessels to enjoy his loot.
Having accepted a pardon, Teach had apparently retired from piracy. Nevertheless, Governor Alexander Spotswood
of Virginia became concerned that the notorious freebooter lived nearby. Spotswood decided to eliminate Blackbeard, even though he lived outside of Spotswood's jurisdiction.
Blackbeard operated in coastal waters; it was difficult for ships of the line to engage him in battle. Two smaller hired sloops were therefore put under the command of Lieutenant Robert Maynard, with instructions from Spotswood to hunt down and destroy Blackbeard, offering a reward of £100, and smaller sums for the lesser crew members.
Maynard sailed from James River on November 11, 1718, in command of thirty men from HMS Pearl, and twenty-five men and a midshipman of HMS Lyme, and in command of the hired sloops, the Ranger and Jane (temporarily commissioned as His Majesty's Ships to avoid accusations of piracy themselves). Maynard found the pirates anchored in a North Carolina inlet on the inner side of Ocracoke Island, on the evening of November 21.
Maynard and his men decided to wait until the following morning because the tide would be more favourable. Blackbeard's Adventure had a crew of only nineteen, "Thirteen crackers and six Negroes", as reported to the Admiralty. A small boat was sent ahead at daybreak, was fired upon, and quickly retreated. Blackbeard's superior knowledge of the inlet was of much help, although he and his crew had been drinking in his cabin the night prior. Throughout the night Blackbeard waited for Maynard to make his move. Blackbeard cut his anchor cable and quickly attempted to move towards a narrow channel. Maynard made chase; however his sloops ran aground, and there was a shouted exchange between captains. Maynard's account says, "At our first salutation, he drank Damnation to me and my Men, whom he stil'd Cowardly Puppies, saying, He would neither give nor take Quarter", although many different versions of the dialogue exist.
Eventually, Maynard's sloops were able to float freely again, and he began to row towards Blackbeard, since the wind was not strong enough at the time for setting sail. When they came upon Blackbeard's Adventure, they were hit with a devastating broadside attack. Midshipman Hyde, captain of the smaller HMS Jane, was killed along with six other men. Ten men were also wounded in the surprise attack. The sloop fell astern and was little help in the following action. Maynard continued his pursuit in HMS Ranger, managing to blast the Adventure's rigging, forcing it ashore. Maynard ordered many of his crew into the holds and readied to be boarded. As his ship approached, Blackbeard saw the mostly empty decks, assumed it was safe to board, and did so with ten men. Blackbeard's assault was preceded by several grenades made by filling rum bottles with gunpowder. Broken glass swept the deck and gunpowder smoke obscured Maynard's view of Blackbeard's boarders.
Maynard's men emerged, and the battle began. The most complete account of the following events comes from the Boston News-Letter:
Maynard and Teach themselves begun the fight with their swords, Maynard making a thrust, the point of his sword against Teach's cartridge box, and bent it to the hilt. Teach broke the guard of it, and wounded Maynard's fingers but did not disable him, whereupon he jumped back and threw away his sword and fired his pistol which wounded Teach. Demelt struck in between them with his sword and cut Teach's face; in the interim both companies engaged in Maynard's sloop. Later during the battle, while Teach was loading his pistol he finally died from blood loss. Maynard then cut off his head and hung it from his bow.
Despite the best efforts of the pirates (including a desperate plan to blow up the Adventure), Teach was killed, and the battle ended. Teach was reportedly shot five times and stabbed more than twenty times before he died and was decapitated. Legends about his death immediately sprang up, including the oft-repeated claim that Teach's headless body, after being thrown overboard, swam between 2 and 7 times around the Adventure before sinking. Teach's head was placed as a trophy on the bowsprit of the ship (it was also required by Maynard to claim his prize when he returned home). After the sheer terror of the battle with the pirates, and the wounds that the crew received, Maynard still only acquired his meager prize of £100 from Spotswood. Later, Teach's head hung from a pike in Bath.
History has romanticised Blackbeard. Popular contemporary engravings show him with the smoking ends of his pigtails or with lit cannon fuses in his hair and pistols in his bandoliers, and he has been the subject of books, movies, and documentaries. There is a Blackbeard Festival in Hampton, Virginia every year and the crew of the modern day British warship HMS Ranger commemorate his defeat at the annual Sussex University Royal Naval Unit Blackbeard Night mess dinner in November.
Another legend in coastal North Carolina holds that Captain Teach's skull was used as the basis for a silver drinking chalice. A North Carolina judge claimed to have drunk from it one night in the 1930s at a closed dinner with a university student. (Blackbeard's Cup and Stories of the Outer Banks by Charles Harry Whedbee.)
Teach was prone to burying treasure. He would allegedly take a treasure chest ashore with one sailor in a small boat, and return alone. The sailor's corpse was said to lie atop the chest in the excavation to discourage the squeamish from continuing the treasure hunt. In times as difficult as the American Revolution, it was common for the credulous to dig along the beaches in search of hidden treasure. A wreck believed to be Blackbeard's Queen Ann's Revenge was discovered near Beaufort, North Carolina in 1996 and is now part of a major tourist attraction.
Blackbeard was thought to have twelve "wives" throughout his life, living on various islands, as well as a wife and son in England.
In 1723, the book A General Historie of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates
was released by a Captain Charles Johnson
, often attributed to Daniel Defoe
. This book describes the adventures of various pirates besides Edward Teach: e.g. Anne Bonny
and Mary Read
. The General Historie
's descriptions, which have found their way into serious history-writing, are a mixture of historical evidence and fiction woven together in a way so complex that it is nearly impossible to divide them again. Even Defoe's authorship cannot be proved without doubt.
The problem appears especially in the case of Edward Teach's life and appearance. The description of the burning matches in his beard is in a literary style that uses dramatic descriptions to make a person more interesting—a style closely connected to Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. Also the earlier mentioned battle with HMS Scarborough lacks evidence in the warship's log. Other incidents, e.g. the blockade of Charleston, South Carolina, appear in other sources.
Books and comics
- Blackbeard appears as a character in Stephen Vincent Benét's drama, The Devil and Daniel Webster (1937). He is part of the Jury of the Damned summoned by the Devil.
- Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island contains two references to Blackbeard. (1883). 1) Squire Trelawney: "Blackbeard was a child to Flint." 2) In the book, one of Long John Silver's pirates is named Israel Hands, after one of Blackbeard's officers.
- Edward Teach appears in Neal Stephenson's series: The Baroque Cycle, commanding a fleet of pirate vessels. A large portion of the opening book Quicksilver involves Blackbeard pursuing Daniel Waterhouse, the protagonist, along the coast of New England (2004)
- In Marvel Comics, Doctor Doom sends the Fantastic Four back in time to find Blackbeard's treasure, but events unfold in such a way that the Thing turns out to be Blackbeard. Blackbeard appears in the 1967 episode of the Spiderman cartoon series "The Night of the Villains" as a dummy created by Parafino, wax master in the world.
- In DC Comics, the immortal Vandal Savage took the alias Edward Teach and earned the nickname 'Blackbeard'. He later faked his own death.
- A character named Blackbeard (Marshall D. Teach instead of Edward Teach) is one of the most powerful pirates in the world of One Piece. Another pirate, Whitebeard, is known by the name Edward Newgate, taking the remainder of the real Blackbeard's name.
- Blackbeard appeared in one of the Time Warp Trio book series titled The Not-So-Jolly Roger.
- Edward Teach is an important secondary character in Gregory Keyes' series The Age of Unreason.
- In Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Master of Ballantrae" there is a pirate captain with a black beard called Teach, but he is distinguished from the Teach of this article.
- According to Peter Pan, Captain Hook was Blackbeard's boatswain.
- The 1986 DC Comics mini-series "Watchmen" features a fictional pirate-themed comic book called "Tales of the Black Freighter." It features horror stories surrounding a ship from hell, crewed by the damned and captained by Edward Teach.
- In the 2002 Novel Plum Island by Nelson Demille, the plot revolves around the discovery of Blackbeard's treasure.
- J. Meade Falkner's novel Moonfleet centres around John Trenchard's discovery of the last resting place of Blackbeard and his hidden treasure.
- Blackbeard made a slight appearance in Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters as a prisoner on Circe's Island, there he is a son of Ares.
- Blackbeard is the chief antagonist of the main character John Chandagnac and a Vodou sorcerer in Tim Powers' 1988 novel On Stranger Tides. His surname is here assumed to be Thatch.
Films and miniseries
In 1956, in the tv series, The Buccaneers, Blackbeard appears in several episodes.
- Malachi Throne portrayed Captain Teach in an episode of "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (TV series)". In the 4th season episode "Blackbeard Returns" the crew of the Seaview discover the resting place of Queen Anne's Revenge and subsequently have to battle the presence of Blackbeard's ghost as the legendary scalawag tries to turn the crewmen into pirates.
- On the Simpsons - Treehouse of Horror IV: The Devil and Homer Simpson, the Devil summons a "Jury of the Damned" to determine whether Homer should go to hell for exchanging his soul for a doughnut (this was inspired by "The Devil and Daniel Webster"). One of those chosen to be on the jury is Blackbeard. After Marge informs him that the only chair left to sit on is a baby's high chair, Blackbeard responds in a tautology, "Arr! This chair be high, says I!" Later, when trying to read Homer's note, he says "Looks to be some kind of treasure map!" Benedict Arnold snatches it from him, chiding him for not being able to read. Blackbeard blames that as the cause of his debauchery.
- Blackbeard is featured in Time Squad as a pirate who wants to save the mammals (or animals). There was an error in his second appearance ("Repeat Offender" (The sequel to "Blackbeard, Warm Heart")) that he is said to be a pirate operating along the Caribbean. (July 6, 2001)
- Blackbeard can be seen sitting next to a customer in the Krusty Krab in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode, Sailor Mouth. (September 21, 2001)
- Blackbeard was among other infamous historical figures brought into the present time in an episode of Xiaolin Showdown.
- Blackbeard is a traitor and deserter of The Whitebeard Pirates in the anime and manga series One Piece. His full name is Marshall D. Teach.
- In Adventures in Odyssey episode 297: "Blackbeard's Treasure," two main characters discover Blackbeard's treasure while holidaying in Bath.
- Snopes, a website that normally investigates and verifies the truth of urban legends, created a false rumour that the rhyme Sing a Song of Sixpence was used as a recruitment tool by Blackbeard. TLC (The Learning Channel) was taken in by this farce, and broadcast it as fact during one of their shows. The board game urban myth also fell for the spoof. Snopes claims they created the spoof to test readers' ability to use their common sense to judge for themselves the likelihood of urban legends. (1999)
- In the Time Warp Trio episode, "The Not so Jolly Roger", Fred, Sam, and Joe, are forced to join Blackbeard's crew.
- National Geographic Channel "Blackbeard: Terror at Sea" 88 min. It is presented as a docu-drama. DVD release feature, "Fact vs. Folklore"
- One of the artifacts on "Legends of the Hidden Temple" was "Blackbeard's Treasure Map".
- Part of the History Channel's "True Caribbean Pirates" deals with Blackbeard.
- Most Haunted have recently been in Bristol to try and find the ghost of Blackbeard
- Blackbeard and his family(Nobeard and Greybeard) appears in Johnny Test where he faces his brother Nobeard, Johnny, and Dukey. Blackbeard's father is revealed to be Greybeard.
- In the series "Jack of All Trades", starring Bruce Campbell, Blackbeard appears in an episode where he is hired by the French to kidnap Benjamin Franklin.
- In 2006 the BBC in the UK showed a two part docu-drama starring James Purefoy as Blackbeard.
Computer and video games
- Blackbeard was the name of a 1988 Sinclair Spectrum computer game released by Topo Soft in Spain, and which was re-released by Kixx in the United Kingdom.
- In the game Sid Meier's Pirates!, Blackbeard plays a minor role as a rival pirate (at the start of the game, Blackbeard is the 2nd most notorious pirate in the Caribbean). (1987 and 2004)
- In Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, a card catalogue entry in the Phatt Island library mentions Blackbeard: "BIOGRAPHY: 'ME AND BLACKBEARD'" (1991)
- In the computer role-playing game, Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Edward Teach is the name of a famous pirate who transports the character to certain locations in the game world.
- 'Baltor the Blackbearded' appears in the Sega Dreamcast game Skies of Arcadia. His ship is called 'The Blackbeard', and Baltor himself resembles Blackbeard.
- In the MMORPG City of Villains, Blackbeard massacred the soldiers of a fort at the fictional location of Port Oakes, causing their ghosts to haunt the area. (2005)
- In the adventure game Red Jack: The Revenge of the Brethren, Blackbeard is portrayed as one of the brethren under Red Jack's command.
- In 7 Studios' video game Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow a character named Black Smoke James, voiced by Steven Jay Blum, bears some resemblance to Blackbeard.
- In the computer game Port Royale I&II (by Ascaron Entertainment), he appears as a marauding pirate that loots merchant fleets and Spanish treasure fleets.
- In the video game Golden Sun, there is an extra boss named Deadbeard, on Crossbone Island.
- In the MMORPG Earth & Beyond, there is a star system only accessible by Pirates called 'Blackbeard's Wake'. The space station in the system is the 'Queen Anne's Revenge'.
- In Megaman Battle Network 6, he is only a WWW member who cause an incident in the Seaside Town in Cyber City. He is also an operator of his net navi Diveman.EXE
- In the MMORPG game Voyage Century Online, Blackbeard is one of the Pirate bosses which you can fight.
- In the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, Blackbeard is a skeleton type "Notorious Monster" that can appear when pirates attack the passenger ferry from Mhaura to Selbina.
- In Ascaron Entertainment's 2007 PC game Tortuga: 2 Treasures, the main character is betrayed by Blackbeard who then embarks upon an adventure of revenge.
- Blackbeard was the featured centerpiece of the famous Disney Park attraction Pirates of the Caribbean from 1967 to mid-2006, when he was replaced by Captain Hector Barbossa from the Pirates movie franchise.
- A painting of Blackbeard hangs in Van Der Veer House (ce. 1790), in Bath.
- Blackbeard's flag was also one of several taken from real-life accounts and used in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
- Blackbeard's Flag is also currently being worn by WWE Wrestler Brian Kendrick as a design on his wrestling shorts.
- Blackbeard was one of the many famous pirates reviewed in the History Channel program "True Caribbean Pirates", along with Henry Morgan, Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and Black Bart Roberts.
- A 2-hour special on National Geographic called "Blackbeard: Terror at Sea", in which a narrative is given about Teach's adventures.
- A shipwreck that experts claim belonged to Blackbeard is currently being excavated off the North Carolina coast.
- Blackbeard is the subject of a new pre-broadway musical written by Rob Gardner entitled "Blackbeard".
Shomette, Donald G. Pirates on the Chesapeake: Being a True History of Pirates, Picaroons, and Raiders on Chesapeake Bay, 1610-1807
. Centreville, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers, 1985.
Spotswood, Alexander.The Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Virginia, 1710-1722. Edited by R. A. Brock. New York: AMS Press Inc., 1973.